Three bold Dolphins predictions for 2020: Tua Tagovailoa leads Miami to the postseason

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It finally feels like the Miami Dolphins are entering a new era. At the beginning of last year, it felt like Brian Flores’ squad was putting together the most egregious tank in NFL history. They were outscored 102-10 in the first two weeks as the defense couldn’t stop anybody and Miami also couldn’t decide on a starting quarterback. They did get it together as the season went on, however, and even ended the year with two straight wins, including one against their rival Patriots in New England. Miami finished the 2019 season with a 5-11 record, and what they accomplished this offseason has fans excited for the future.

The Dolphins entered free agency with the most available cash, and they weren’t shy about spreading it around. They scored solid additions to the defense in Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson, and even bolstered the offensive line by signing Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras — both of who will likely start for Miami in the season opener. The Dolphins also acquired talent via trade and in the 2020 NFL Draft. Miami acquired former San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida in exchange for a fifth-round pick and then of course selected their quarterback of the future in Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick.

Things are looking up for the Dolphins, but what exactly should we expect out of them in 2020? With the AFC East up for grabs, do they have a chance at winning the division? Should we expect a winning record, or maybe just a campaign that was better than last year’s? Below, we will examine three bold takes for the Dolphins in 2020.

1. Miami’s run game makes a big jump

The Dolphins had the worst rushing offense in the NFL last year, as they averaged just 72.3 yards per game. Part of this had to do with the fact that Miami was always down in games and had to resort to passing the ball, but they also didn’t have much talent in the backfield. The Dolphins’ leading rusher was quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who rushed 54 times for 243 yards and scored four touchdowns. Mark Walton, who played in just seven games before running into legal issues, finished second with 201 yards, and Kenyan Drake, who played in just six games before being traded away, finished third with 174 yards. The only player to play in all 16 games and record a rushing attempt for the Dolphins last year was punter Matt Haack.


Now, the Dolphins have Jordan Howard, who rushed for 525 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Breida, who is a dual-threat weapons as a runner and receiver. While those two figure to lead the rushing attack, Miami also picked up an intriguing weapon in Malcolm Perry, who played quarterback at Navy. Perry may have played the position of “quarterback,” but he made most of his impact on the ground. In four years, Perry racked up 4,359 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns while averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He recorded 2,017 rushing yards during his senior season, which was the most rushing yards any quarterback recorded in 2019. Perry could end up playing more wide receiver than running back with the Dolphins, but he’s still someone I expect to make some sort of impact in the run game.

This unit as a whole will average over 100 rushing yards per game in 2020 (11 teams failed to do so last year), and it’s going to be something that will help Tagovailoa in his transition to the next level and help the Dolphins in general. 

2. Tua Tagovailoa wins Offensive Rookie of the Year

Former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow stole the hype Tagovailoa was supposed to have coming into the NFL, but it was well deserved. Burrow completed 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2019, won the Heisman Trophy as well as the college football national championship — the perfect end to a perfect season. Tagovailoa, on the other hand, suffered a serious hip injury that cut his final season at Alabama short, and ultimately caused him to fall down draft boards. 

Yes, Burrow did put together the best season a college quarterback has ever had, but it was just one season. Tagovailoa has had success across multiple seasons. He finished his junior season as the Crimson Tide’s career touchdown responsibility leader with 96. His 87 touchdown passes moved him past AJ McCarron for the most thrown in program history, and he finished third in Alabama history with 7,442 passing yards. Tagovailoa entered college football as a winner, as he replaced Jalen Hurts at halftime as a true freshman during the 2018 College Football National Championship game, and helped the Tide rally from a 13-0 deficit to win 26-23 in overtime. 

I’m not here to argue that Tagovailoa is much better than Burrow, but I do believe he comes into the NFL better set up to have immediate success. The Cincinnati Bengals were the worst team in the NFL last year and have to play in the very tough AFC North. Tagovailoa comes into the NFL with a better coach in an easier division and arguably has a better defense to help him out. My bold prediction is that Tagovailoa comes in, wins the starting job and secures Offensive Rookie of the Year over the likes of Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and all the talented wideouts this rookie class possesses. 

3. Dolphins make the postseason 

Earlier this week, my colleague John Breech ranked the NFL teams that are most likely to go from worst-to-first in 2020, and he actually has the Dolphins at No. 1. He’s excited about the new additions and the coaching staff just like I am, plus he brought up an interesting fun fact that is sure to get you thinking:

“Over the past 17 years, only one team not named New England has won an AFC East title, and that was the Dolphins in 2008. Of course, we’re noting that here, because it involved a worst-to-first situation. After going 1-15 in 2007, the Dolphins ran wild over everyone in 2008 by implementing a Wildcat offense that they ended up riding to a 11-5 record and a division title.”

The Dolphins have pulled off worst-to-first before, and they can do it again. I don’t know if I’m confident in saying that Miami will definitely win the AFC East, but with the NFL having added another wild-card spot, I’ll go ahead and have one of my bold predictions be that Miami makes the postseason. If the three-team wildcard scenario was in play last year, the 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers would have made the postseason. I think that a .500 record may not be enough to earn a playoff spot in 2020, but the Dolphins are capable of putting together a winning season and surprising everyone by making the playoffs for the first time since 2016. 

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